Monday, March 29, 2010

Going back to Chicago

So this isn't really directly a PapaGolf story, but tangentially it might qualify. You see, one of my takeaways from my day trip to the windy city of Chicago last year was a desire to come back sometime when I could stay a little longer. When I found out that Co-pilot Egg was going to spend her Spring Break in Florida visiting her grandparents, well, it seemed like just the opportunity I was looking for. But... the scheduling was tight, so there couldn't be any dependency on VFR weather. Plus the Co-owner would be accompanying me and she's not that fond of the crowded conditions endemic to flight in an RV-6. And no Sky Mall catalog to skim through and laugh at the insane products and prices?? Please!

And the luggage! Where would all of that go??

So, it had to be commercial air. But if you have ever had the dubious pleasure of traveling through O'Hare (and who hasn't?) you will understand why I wanted to give that a wide berth. As fate would have it, Egg's only option for a non-stop flight (which was an absolute requirement as it would be her first time flying alone and I couldn't get my head around her wandering through a big airport alone trying to find a connecting flight) to Florida was Southwest Airlines who, in an inspired business decision, based themselves at the much less hectic Midway Airport. And against all odds there was a flight departing to Chicago a mere 15 minutes after her departure to Florida! Clearly, it was meant to be. Divinely intervened, says I.

Naturally by the time you deal with all of the time-consuming hassles incumbent in modern air travel, it ends up taking just as much time as driving would have. But the beauty of flying, over and above the fact that we had to go to the airport anyway, was that we could take a taxi from the airport to the hotel and leave it to someone else to deal with the inevitable Chicago traffic hassles. And for just $1.80 a mile! Plus a $0.50 fuel surcharge which Mr. Leadfoot Q. Cabdriver burned through in the first two blocks. But still... downtown Chicago without ever having once felt the visceral need to scream at an obstinately incompetent driver. Bargain! Which isn't to say that there weren't any obstinately incompetent drivers, mind you. It's just that the worst of them was driving our cab and it seemed like screaming at him might present a dangerous distraction.

Right after getting checked into the hotel, we headed to our room to have a quick drink to calm our travel-frazzled nerves. I can't do that when flying for myself so it was a bit of a rare treat. The hotel we're staying at is pretty plush, which any seasoned traveler can tell you means that it will have something like one tenth of the amenities of a Motel 6. Sure, they'll leave a light on for you, but it's an additional $8.99 on the bill. Per night. Figuring the room would have a mini-bar with prices on par with those of Wiemar Germany circa 1920, we (well, to give credit where due, the Travel Director) thought to bring a flask of spirits along with us. The hotel provided the glassware, though:

It's a fancy place - it evens come with a robe. Any ideas about purloining a robe as a souvenir are rapidly dissuaded after a quick perusal of the price list: $206 for the pleasure.

The Travel Director managed to get us a room upgrade which, amongst other things, gave us a "partial lake view," the word "partial" being stretched to within an inch of snapping. I couldn't come up with a better word, though, having considered and discarded various conjugations of "sliver," "illusory," and "minuscule."

After our drinks, we took a quick reconnoiter around the local area to see what was what in the 'hood. They don't feed you on the plane anymore and with a trip this short wouldn't have had time to anyway, so we also scoped out feeding spots. We hadn’t gone much further than the corner right across the street from the hotel before scoring pay dirt: awesome seafood! I selected the Mahi Mahi (they had me at Wasabi Cauliflower) from the menu pasted to the window, but we decided to walk around the block first in order to make breakfast plans for the next morning before settling in for dinner.

Once finished making my dinner selection, I turned about and captured some views of the hotel's exterior:

I'm sure there's a wise-ass observational theory regarding the odd shape of the building floating around in my head somewhere, but I just can't quite grasp it. Give me a couple days and a few more in-room drinks - it'll come to me.

One thing I can definitively say, though: it’s no secret why they call Chicago the Windy City: it is. Very. It was a bit chilly, actually. Quite a bit chilly. Still, also quite scenic. It's one of those places where the new sits in perfect comfort next to the old, and still finds room for the sublime:

Did I say sublime? I meant conspicuously commercial. An entire store devoted to Hershey's Chocolate?? Yes, it would appear so!

Right across the street from the Hershey's store:

We thought about taking a carriage ride, but as I mentioned before, it was pretty darn cold. And those carriages with their equine-methane heating system? Not for me! Not before dinner, anyway.

This is, I believe, the water tower for which the district we're staying in was named:

We eventually worked our way back to the restaurant which turned out to be pretty fancy too. It has a nice interior, although I was mistaken in my assumption that it was one of those places like Red Lobster where you get to select your meal from a holding tank. It turns out that those big fish on the walls were fake. Purely decorative. Alas.

As my luck would have it, they were out of the Mahi by the time we were ready to order. Story of my life, that. See also: Denny’s Chicken Fried Steak.

I went with my second choice, the seared Ahi Tuna. But first, a wedge salad. The wedge salad is my absolutely favorite roughage. Unpretentious iceberg lettuce (as opposed to the “mixed field weeds” so popular in trendy, "happening" eateries) topped with bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and fresh ground black pepper. Seriously, that’s a trifecta of delights I would eat without the lettuce underpinnings. Just heap it all up on a plate and let me at it!

The Ahi was sliced thin and seared only around the edges. It was served Sushi style with wasabi and sliced ginger. It was like Sushi without the seaweed! Fantastic!

The Travel Director had coconut shrimp and a chopped salad.

Chopped what? Beats me! Looked like mixed field weeds.

For desert, she went for a slice of pecan pie while I opted for something lighter: a fresh-pressed apple juice martini:

That was a fine drink. It tasted like one of those Jolly Rancher candies you had when you were a kid. You know who makes those?


Who knew?

Not me - I hadn't paid much attention in the store.


  1. How did you manage to get a flask on the plane?
    And wait, since when do we even OWN a flask?!

  2. Dude, haven't you EVER seen the 20/20 or 60 Minutes exposes on hotel glassware? In most places, you're lucky if they change rags between the toilet and the glasses.

    Never drink from a hotel glass, if you can avoid it. Shrink-wrapped only.

  3. Don't worry, Bob, the glassware was heavily sanitized with high-grade alcohol. Any germs on there would have joined a few thousand of by brain cells in their early and tragic demise.

  4. Good choice on the high-test. Cause, yeah, hotel glasses... ick!